Personal journey ignites passion

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By DAVID HILL

Following her family’s legacy led to a Queen’s Birthday Honour for Kaikoura’s Gina Solomon.

Ms Solomon was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to conservation and governance.

“I was pretty blown away by it. You don’t expect those things to happen and then it does.

“I’ve been involved in a number of different committees over the years in that conservation and environment space and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to go to some great places and meet some great people.”

Growing up at Oaro, south of Kaikoura, she gained a passion for conservation, following a family legacy.

“My father fished with my grandfather and that’s where my grandmother’s people are from, so it’s been a personal journey of trying to carry-on their good work to ensure it continues to feed us.

“I don’t fish myself, but it’s about looking after that place for the next generation and the one after that.”

After living and working in Wellington, Ms Solomon returned home to Kaikoura in 1993 and was keen to reconnect with her iwi.

She was appointed secretary of the local Kaikoura runanga and began tagging along with her mother, Darcia Solomon, to various hui, including the Nelson Marlborough Conservation Board.

Her mother had replaced her uncle as the Ngai Tahu representative on the conservation board “and she wanted me to take her place one day”.

“I tagged along with her to various hui over the years and I ended up being her driver and then I got thrown in the deep end, so I did my best to try to swim.

“I’ve been very lucky at having good people around me, including close family and friends who have given me advice so it’s not just recognition for me.

“You don’t really do anything without the people who stand with you.”

Ms Solomon has served 14 years on the conservation board and as chairperson since 2017, but will step down later this month.

She continues to be involved in Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura as secretary and administrator and is a Kaikoura Marine Guardian.

Te Korowai was instrumental in advocating for the establishment of Kaikoura’s marine protection legislation, while the guardians were established to monitor the marine reserve.

Her passion for conservation has also led to involvement in the QEII National Trust Board, the Nature Heritage Fund, the Molesworth Steering Committee, the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group, the Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust and the Kaikoura Zone Committee.

“I really enjoyed my time on the QEII trust. I had the opportunity to share my iwi values. Being the only Maori on the trust board at the time, it was important to share that.

“I got to go all round New Zealand and see what people are doing. I went to some special places and I got to hold a kiwi and a giant weta and had all sorts of wonderful experiences that you don’t always get to see. I’ve been very, very lucky.”